Rav Shimshon Rephael Hirsch was a rabbi in Europe about 200 years ago. Born in 1808 – he explained Judaism with a point to inspire the intellectual Jewish populace. He wrote that the main thing that a child wants from parents is Love. “The Love that you give to the child is greater to the child than any gift in the world you can give them.” When someone asks the child – does your father (or mother) love you? their answer should be a sure answer – “of course”.
This lesson does not only apply to children but to students, friends, spouses and oneself.
I heard this shiur / lecture from a live broadcast from a The Beit Knesset Moshayov from Yesterday (in Hebrew).
What is love?
To understand how to educate children – it is not enough to “Just love them” but to understand what love really is. Love means giving for the interest of the child – not for our personal interests. People err. They think if I buy them a toy, a game – that expresses my love. It does but is that what the child wants? Apparently – they would rather a hug than a roller coaster ride. They would rather quality time than an expensive vacation. They would rather a kiss on the cheek – than a Play station.
I was listening to a rabbi – he told two stories. One child on Passover – found the Afikomen / the piece of Matza that is hidden by some families at the Passover seder. The child that finds it can choose their prize. Some ask for toys, games, Jewish books and the like. This child asked for a kiss on the cheek from the father.
Affection is important – but the way that the child wants it – not the way that we may want to give it. A child understands more than we think. They know when you hand them a video – you’re basically telling them – I have more important things to do.
So how can we bond with children?
The Shabbat Table
When the family enjoys the Shabbat meals together – it is a great way to bond. We talk with children. We give them attention. We sing together – interact together – learn together – eat together and develop as a person. We say words of Torah and encourage to do the same.
No Substitute for Spiritual Bonding
Some think that taking the kid to the local park is a substitute. Truthfully – in the park a parent sits on the bench and the kid disappears with their friends until it is time to leave. Where is the bonding? Take them to a baseball game? OK. We watch grown men throwing a ball around. What about watching TV? The TV is the center of attention – the child is just a spectator – secondary to what appears on the screen. Give them a cell phone? A nice way of saying occupy yourself with this while I carry on my own life. Go shopping together? the focus is on the buying – not on the kid.
The Torah School
Many Jewish parents send their children to public school. I myself went to one. One of the the main qualms of parents is – Jewish Day school costs money. OK. But did they ask themselves – what is the best interest for my child’s emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical development. A public school only teaches secular knowledge. A Torah Day school teaches secular knowledge and how to be a beautiful functioning person that wants to help society and be a good person deep down.
The Kiss of Life
A five year old child was wetting their bed. The parents tried giving him gifts to motivate him to not do so. They asked psychologists. Talked with him. Nothing worked. One rabbi heard the problem and said perhaps the kid lacks affection from the parents. He instructed them to spend time with him at night, read him the Shema Yisrael before sleeping and give him a goodnight kiss. Within the week that they started – they solved the bed wetting problem.
Lech Neche et HaAm – Go and Speak nicely with the people
Menashe Yeshoshua – speaking on on Education in his sefer / book Shaarei Hamishkan writes on the verse “Go and speak calmly with the people.” When G-d spoke to Moses – he said Go and speak calmly with the people. The Nursing woman speaks with baby softly. This is the way we are to speak with the child.When we want to correct the child we correct the improper action – but the love should remain. We don’t say you are the problem. We do not say “You are selfish!” We try to instruct them on being more selfless – by being selfless ourselves and the like.
When the Jewish people rebelled – Moses asks G-d “Am I their father that I should calmly guide them like a nursing woman to the nursing baby?” This is teaching us that the parents – all have the ability to calmly educate the child. G-d gave us this ability. We are to believe in ourselves and in Hash-m / G-d that He gave us the ability to do so and will help us to get the proper results.